Has been hectic lately, with virii, change of location and larp taking my time. Speaking of…
My personal definition of a game is that it is an activity, governed by rules, where the participants try to overcome challenges with some sort of interaction. Those larps where I have been were quite light on the rules and challenges department. Usually the player is given a predefined character, with goals, motivations and abilities. The challenges are usually that other people need to give you information and some need to do something for you (usually die). The rules are that the players must play as the character and assume its personality.
So far larping has been quite similar to its nearest cousin, tabletop roleplaying. But when I look for the properties that I believe makes a good game, I find larping lacking. First of all, fairness. Almost everyone (at least in a western society and culture) expects that games are fair. Larping is hugely dependant on the intrinsic abilities of the players. Boffering (contact swordfighting with soft plastic weapons) is one example. If you as the player are not good at boffering, playing a legendary elf ninja assassin is going to hit a little snag, especially if you find yourself fighting someone more experienced. Sure some general rules can address the problem, for example the meanest-and-ugliest-wins-principle used in the games where I were. But those rules are quite clunky when wielded in-game. The game also runs into the same problem with roleplaying diplomacy that I have already touched on; If you are not eloquent yourself, it will be hard to play as a smooth talker character. So larping requires a lot of intrinsic abilities if one wishes to succeed. Which generates a threshold for new players. Not good.
Larping is also quite merciless. I once was in a game where I died during the first ten minutes (mostly due to rules confusion). I spent the next three to four hours sitting in the off-game area, listening to music. In no other game would this be acceptable. To simply be eliminated from the game because of a mistake is quite punishing. Therefore everyone is usually reminded to save the killing sprees for the end game so no-one has to skip out on most of the game. Which is metagaming, a thing usually avoided. Sometimes the problem is alleviated with backup-characters, but those are usually second-hand characters and with tight prop budget will generate confusion when an identically dressed person comes around with a new character. I have trouble killing in larps, because my GM-instincts kick in and I start to worry that my killee will have a boring rest of the game.
The goals might be flimsy and uncertain, since no-one knows after the game ends whether or not they have succeeded in their goals. For example, in one larp I and my elf ninja assassin friend managed to get our hedonistic idiot king killed and found the dark elf queen we had been searching for. Yay. Although after the game her player said that the queen was an uncaring cunt. Boo.
The reason why larping is less capable as a game as, for example, tabletop roleplaying, is that there is no central control. The players act out the game themselves, and either the writers nor game masters can control it once it has begun. To a tabletop-DM like me it is a horrendous idea. You cannot craft certain experiences if you cannot enforce them. When I wrote my latest game, there were hundreds of little scenarios between the characters flying around in my head. None happened.
But regardless, this is not a rant against larping. It is as good hobby as any, and has its own unique strengths. It is just an observation that I do not consider larping ”gaming” as I do other similar activities. Something to consider.